Meritocracy sounds like a pretty good idea. Contributions of users in crowdsourcing systems are observable and, in cases where the relative worth of various types of contribution can be measured, the users can be evaluated based on the total contribution they made. In practice, a user can be assigned a certain number of points for every contribution. These virtual points are meaningless per se. However a variety of meanings to can be attributed to make them useful.
User’s trustworthiness or reputation can be measured by points. The reputation in turn corresponds to the power a user welds within the crowdsourcing system. For instance, Stack Overflow lets users earn points for useful contributions such as answering questions or asking good questions. The more points one earns the more actions one is allowed to perform.
Gamification and points go hand in hand. A status bar showing how far you profile is from being completed could be a motivation to enter more information. This can be combined with the idea of releasing more features to people who made a larger contribution. For example, a dating site may not let you view pictures of others until you upload your own.
Another clear application for points is encouraging contributions through competition. Highest contributors can be listed on the leader board. Further incentives can be provided by telling the user how many more points she needs to go up in the rankings. Comparisons with ones Facebook friends may be most interesting. It keep me playing the Traveller IQ game for a while.
In a similar way, users can be motivated by social recognition which is provide for users with most points. The names or twitter handles of top contributors can be listed on the front page. In some cases such recognition has monetizable value. Top Stack Overflow users are viewed as professional developers by the companies even before they are interviewed.
A very direct way of using points is to convert the into something of immediate value such as free space on Dropbox or a cash equivalent.
The point of this post is to say that points provide a unified way of keeping track of contributions, which can be manifested to the user in a variety of ways.